Press Release Feb. 26, 2014

For Immediate Release

CONTACT:  Merle Payne, CTUL, 612-859-5750brian@ctul.net or  Josh Keller, 612-270-2984jkeller@mnfaireconomy.org

Workers Rally to End Poverty Wages in Minnesota 

While legislature debates raising minimum wage and President Obama visits town to talk transit and jobs, workers call on Target to join fight to raise wages 

MINNEAPOLIS (Feb. 26) — After taking part in the rally to Raise the Wage at the Capitol Tuesday, workers and allies from faith, labor and community groups took to the skyways in Minneapolis today to call on corporations like Target to stand with workers in their fight to end poverty wages in Minnesota.

Leading the march and rally were retail cleaners contracted to clean stores like Target who are forced to survive on poverty wages. The march proceeded into Target’s flagship store in silence as the workers and community allies handed out flyers highlighting the need for corporations like Target to stand with the majority of Minnesotans who overwhelmingly support a raise in wages for low-wage workers.

Workers have been visiting Target for the last six weeks for what has been called “Fair Wage Wednesday.” Last week, workers asked Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel to walk a week in the shoes of a minimum wage worker by taking the Working America Minimum Wage Challenge. The workers left the Challenge guidelines with the security guards who blocked the entrance to Target Headquarters for Mr. Steinhafel, who workers pointed out made over $20 million dollars in 2013 while in contrast, workers cleaning Target stores were forced to survive on poverty wages. There has been no response from Mr. Steinhafel.

The retail cleaners are aligned with Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL), a worker center based in the Twin Cities who have been fighting to improve working conditions for cleaners who work for Target’s subcontracted cleaning companies. Retail cleaners in Minnesota went out on three strikes last year where hundreds of workers, allies and politicians walked the picket line to call on companies that are contracted to clean Target and other stores to ensure fair wages, safe working conditions, and the right to organize without fear of retaliation for contracted cleaning workers.

The issue of raising wages has heated up in the last year, with President Obama calling for a $10.10 federal minimum wage, the Minnesota state legislature debating a $9.50 state minimum wage, and a growing movement of low-wage workers going on strike and fighting for a voice in the workplace, but poverty wages are nothing new for contracted retail cleaning workers in Minnesota.

Jose Cabrera is employed by Carlson to clean a Target and has to work two jobs to support his family, who he rarely is able to see because of his long hours.

“I’ve been working in cleaning for almost 10 years and have only gotten one raise during that time, to my current rate of $9 per hour,” said Cabrera. “This isn’t enough. I have a wife, two daughters and a new granddaughter, all of whom depend on me. My low wage requires me to have two jobs, which means I constantly miss out on time with my family just so we can scrape by.”

The march and rally, which are part of a week of action which also will see demonstrations at Walmart and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, brought back together the workers in low-wage industries from across the state who were front and center for the big BlackFriday march in St. Paul on the day after Thanksgiving.

“I took part in the peaceful civil disobedience on Black Friday because we are tired of poverty wages,” said Leroy Graham, who is employed by Diversified to clean a Target store. “The frustration continues to grow as we have to make decisions every day on which basic needs we can meet with our meager paychecks. Corporations like Target and our elected officials in St. Paul have the power to raise wages for Minnesota workers, which will help families and stimulate our economy. The time for waiting is over. We need to Raise the Wage.”

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